The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is 10 years old.  This is much lower than other countries. For example, the age of criminal responsibility is 14 years old in Germany, 16 years old in Portugal and 18 years old in Luxembourg.  Efforts have been made by some to encourage the Government to increase the age here.

This means that in England and Wales children as young as 10 can be arrested, charged and convicted of a criminal offence. Certain measures are put in place when the suspect or Defendant is a young person, but are these measures sufficient?

When a person under 18 years of age is arrested they are entitled to an appropriate adult.  The role of an appropriate adult is, in general, to ensure that matters are being dealt with properly and fairly and to ensure that everything is understood.  An appropriate adult can be a family member or family friend, provided that they are not involved in the case in any way and that they are suitable.  If not a representative from the Appropriate Adult Service, who are specially trained, can assist.

When a young person is arrested their parent or guardian should be notified of their whereabouts.

When at a police station young people should be prioritised and dealt with as quickly as possible due to their age.

Where possible, young persons are diverted away from the Court system, by way of a caution, for example.

If a young person is charged or postally requisitioned to Court then their case will be heard in the Youth Court, which is a closed Court, though there are some exceptions.  In the Youth Court the first name of the young person is used and in general the identity of the young person is not made public.

Young people will also need to have an appropriate adult at Court, although if the young person is 16 or 17 years of age, the Court can proceed in the absence of one.  The Appropriate Adult Service do not usually assist at Court.

Some young persons may also need an intermediary to assist them through the Court process where they have learning difficulties, for example.  An intermediary is a professional person who can sit with the young person in Court and help to explain what is going on in a way that they understand.  Officers of the Court can also be asked to adapt procedures to ensure that the young person understands.

If you are a young person or are responsible for a young person who needs assistance either at the police station or at Court, please contact our crime department on 0116 201 8566 or email us

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